As Enmos said, the word "Why?" as a one-word question is contextual, referring back to the most recent statement. Not in contemporary American English. You generally only see it in comic strips, and it's shorthand for "Huh?" That is also contextual, usually meaning, "I don't understand something fundamental about what was just said." That makes it closer to "What?" than to "Why?" I interpret that as, "Huh?" In other words, "I don't understand how what you just said fits into the discussion. What did you mean?" Again, it's much closer to "What?" than to "Why?" Then you will be frequently misunderstood because the rest of us don't interpret that punctuation mark standing alone the way you expect us to. John's question must be interpreted in context but typical and reasonable interpretations include: There are no movies. This is an Amish village and the nearest movie theater is in the next county. We can't go anywhere. Your motorcycle ran out of gas. It's five o'clock in the morning. There are no movies playing anywhere on this continent. We're in Cluj and neither of us understands Romanian. You just ran a red light and hit the mayor's car and we're surrounded by cops. The last place were going is to the movies. No, not linguistics. It's orthography, the set of conventions for writing a specific language. Orthographic conventions make up for tone of voice, pauses, facial expressions and all the other non-verbal clues we express in real conversation, and help us understand what is written. Breaking orthographic conventions is, at the very least, rude. Notice that John's iconoclastic refusal to write "I" correctly, with a capital letter, makes your eye pause for a millisecond as you try to figure out what "i" means. He's being rude to all of us, but he thinks it's cute. ifjohntookthisiconoclasmtoitslogicalextremeandjustwrotetheletterswithnorespectfor orthographyatallyoudprobablystopreadingbeforeyougotthisfarandputjohnonyourignorelist [Sorry, even the SciForums text processor can't handle that. It inserts spaces at random intervals, but I wrote it with none.] Writing a question mark with no words breaks traditional orthographic conventions, but in the 20th century comic strips established the convention that "?" means "Huh?" Since John doesn't like conventions, he wants to use it in a different way. The inevitable result is that no one will understand him.